A Welcome Distraction

Three points from the last four games signal the biggest dip in form of Notts’ season so far.

Still far from a crisis but Saturday’s FA Cup First Round fixture with Accrington Stanley at Meadow Lane probably comes at just the right moment in time.

Most recently, a 10 minute capitulation away at Colchester saw Notts concede four goals in the league for the first time since April 2007 in a 4-2 defeat, followed by a dicey 1-1 draw at home to struggling Wycombe Wanderers last weekend.

The blip has coincided with the loss of Gavin Mahon through injury, with Saturday’s score draw being complimented by the absence of Neal Bishop through suspension.

We saw first hand in the Johnsons Paint Trophy that there’s a scary lack of depth at Meadow Lane currently, but it will do nothing for confidence if there’s a struggle on the cards if only two of the regular starting XI are missing.

Of course, every side is going to struggle missing two of it’s best assets – but Wycombe were there for the taking having had Ben Burgess give County the lead on 44 seconds. Notts were unable to add to that though, somewhat disappointingly when you consider Burgess and Lee Hughes are the first choice strike partnership.

It was Hughes who put the best chance to add to the scoreline wide in the first half and is now without a goal in eight games – stretching back to September 24th. His poke came after he’d done all the hard work of turning his man to make space for the shot, a disappointing finish.

The earliest league goal of the day was accompanied by the latest when Wycombe equalised inside injury time with a speculative drive from Joel Grant which goalkeeper Stuart Nelson will know full well he should’ve saved. A great shame considering the two world class saves he’d made during the afternoon to keep Notts in the game.

Two points dropped at home the case may be, but as has been a recurrent theme during the last four games, the sides around Notts didn’t press home the advantage and so Notts still find themselves occupying the last of the playoff positions.

But things might just be about to change. Any one of four sides from Carlisle, Brentford, Stevenage and Tranmere could leapfrog Notts with a win in their next fixtures – with Notts facing a daunting trip to Huddersfield.

Before then, Stanley (17th in League Two) come to Meadow Lane reminded of how they were the only side to have taken victory at Meadow Lane in the 2009/10 title-winning season. Depending on the squad Martin Allen has available to him, you can’t argue against there being a cupset on the cards.

Following the highs of last season’s FA Cup campaign it’s an almost magical time of year again where your mind can’t help but look ahead to potential future draws and the possibility of some gigantic clubs visiting, or inviting Notts into their homes.

On the flipside, the ensuing fixture pileup that comes with an extended run certainly did nothing to help our league form. Following a 5-0 reversal to Manchester City at Eastlands, Notts were only to win four of their remaining 19 fixtures last season.

The financial rewards that came with the run were great, the physical and mental toll on the players is most definitely cause for concern though.

Once the cup fever will have subsided though, you’re left with Huddersfield Town at the Galpharm – enough to strike fear in the heart of any County fan following two 3-0 crushings last season. Our hosts find themselves in rude form having been undefeated in 42 League One fixtures (apparently we have to look the other way and ignore their Playoff Final defeat to Peterborough but who are we to argue with the statisticians?).

A win for the Terriers would see them reach a record 43 games unbeaten – a record held since 1978 by who else? Nottingham Forest. So who knows, maybe this could be Notts’ day?

With Mahon slated to return from injury that day, and Bish back in the middle, Notts can go there and get a point. With enough travelling support on the road backing the team then just maybe Allen’s side can take something more from this?

His squad has been doubted every step of the way this season but often comes out punching above their weight – the current Notts side won’t be fearful of the trip that’s for sure.

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